Animation Tips & Tricks: Intro to 3D Animation

Forums Resources Animation Animation Tips & Tricks: Intro to 3D Animation

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    Setting Up Project Directories and Saves

    Setting a project ensures all related files get put into the same root directory folder. Files must be organized inside the root directory in order to be loaded into an open project scene.

    Increment and Save copies and overwrites multiple backup files as you progress.  With digital technology it is always recommended to backup files multiple times to ensure work doesn’t get lost.

    World of Level Design: How to Set Up a New Project

    The Bouncing Ball Project

    The bouncing ball project is a solemn rite of passage for beginner animators, meant to test the animator’s ability to exaggerate performance and motion. The most notable principles are squash and stretch and timing  Perfecting these elements takes practice.

    The Graph Editor can be used to smooth out jerky animation frames into more fluid motion curves. The Timeline can be used to plan out every frame so that motion does not appear too fast or too slow.

    Angryanimator: Bouncing Ball Tutorial

    MegaBcoyle: Graph Editor

    The Animator’s Survival Guide

    Walk Cycles

    Walk cycles are one of the essential components of an animation demo reel.  A good walk cycle displays understanding of observation, timing, and weight. Reference footage is recommended to achieve the best results.

    101 Dalmations- Dog Walking Look Alikes

    Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks- What not to do with your walk cycle

    YouTube: Walk Cycle References

    Reference Footage, Image Planes, and Mirroring

    Reference footage is used to help provide visual cues during the animation process. Footage can be broken down frame by frame to provide a convenient guide to how motion really looks.

    Trying to animate without reference actually takes longer and generally ends up looking slightly off because you are trying to replicate movements and expressions from memory.  Memory is never as accurate as seeing the real thing.

    To find sources for live reference, look online, ask a friend, or record yourself performing the action you are trying to animate. Mirrors are a handy tool for facial animation.

    Reference images can be set up on the coordinate planes in Maya to allow the modeler to quickly sculpt a 3D form simply by tracing outlines. It is recommended to only model half of the geometry, and then mirror the other half. This method saves a lot of time. Footage can also be projected onto planes to rotoscope or serve as a background reference.

    CGI Animation Breakdowns HD: Walt Disney’s “Frozen” Shot progression – by Bobby Pontillas

    Sleeping Beauty – Live Action Dance Reference

    Joy Horvath: Setting up image planes in Maya

    MDanimator: How to Import Video Reference directly to Maya using Quicktime Pro

    3DEX: How to Mirror Objects

    David O’Reilly

    I’ve spent hours on this project, and my animation still looks terrible

    Break down the workload into smaller segments and gradually refine each section in multiple steps. Begin with rough position blocking, add more details, and end by adding the final polishing touches.

    Don’t forget to memorize the 12 principles of animation and go through the checklist when animating to improve results. Floaty movements are the result of not showing proper weight or gravity. Jerky movements or slow motion action usually are the result of not having the right timing between keyframes.

    Create strong silhouettes for key poses. Exaggeration can enhance the effect.

    In the industry, professional voice actors are a huge influence on the characterization of the animated characters they portray, but it is ultimately the animator’s job to add in subtle details and exaggeration to bring the performance to another level.  Animation is time-intensive and not easy to produce, but the results can be very rewarding when done properly.

    Bloop Animation: The 6 Steps of Animation

    The Lion King: The Making of a Walt Disney Masterpiece

    Walt Disney Recycled Animation Scenes

    SIGGRAPH 1999 Animation Principles Notes

    Rare Behind the Scenes Photos of Disney Classics

    The Emperor’s New Groove Behind The Voices


    Parenting, Grouping, and Constraints

    Grouping objects will allow moving or scaling a number of components all at once, while parenting groups of objects adds an extra feature that controls all the child nodes.

    Constraints are one of those things that seem so simple in principle, yet can be a complete nightmare to do correctly. Constraints are typically used to temporarily pick up an object or attach an item to a rigged model.

    MegaBcoyle: Picking up an object


    A skydome or skybox is used as a surface to project background textures for the sky environment. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

    A skybox cube has less vertices than a sphere and takes very little time to set up, but it can show texture seams along edges and corners. The biggest downside to skyboxes is that they work best with static textures.

    With video games especially leaning towards verisimilitude, animated day-night cycles and randomly occurring weather cycles are becoming a common practice.  Spherical skydomes make it a little easier to show moving clouds and transitions for times of day, but the textures can take some extra tweaking to apply.

    Blue Sky/Fox Entertainment

    Maya is frozen, and I can’t escape

    Maya is a very complex multi-purpose software package, and as a result it can sometimes be quite finicky.

    Force quit by clicking on the Maya program tab at the bottom. If Maya keeps crashing continuously, certain files might have become corrupted or your computer’s graphics card might not be able to handle the strain of running the program.

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